Paternity is the legal status of fatherhood. A child's biological father does not necessarily have legal parenting rights or legal responsibilities toward the child until paternity has been established. 

Establishing paternity can be a difficult process without a legal advocate by your side.

Learn how paternity lawyer Donna J. Smiedt​ in Arlington, TX, can help you protect your child's best interests...

The Benefits of Establishing Paternity

Establishing legal fatherhood with the help of a lawyer can have far-reaching benefits for children and parents, such as:

Access to Child Support

Until the courts declare a man the legal father of a child, it is difficult to require him to pay child support, whether the parents were never married or are divorced.

Proper Custody and Visitation Rights

A biological father will have difficulty achieving legal custody or fair visitation rights if he is not recognized as the legal father.

Knowledge of Medical History

In cases where the identity of the biological father is unclear, court-ordered DNA tests can prove fatherhood and give children access to important medical information.

Access to Insurance and Other Benefits

A child cannot access their father's benefits such as health insurance, social security, and inheritance until legal fatherhood has been established.

Emotional Advantages

Paternity allows fathers to enjoy a relationship with their children, have a hand in the child's upbringing, and bond with the child.

Donna J. Smiedt: Family Lawyer

The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt in Arlington, TX, has been handling family law cases for clients throughout greater Dallas-Fort Worth for more than 30 years. With practice areas including divorce, child custody, and child support, Donna and her team of family law attorneys have extensive knowledge of every facet of Texas family law, and they can apply this focus to paternity issues.

When it comes time to pursue legal action in establishing paternity, you should seek a lawyer who will handle the proceedings with sensitivity and compassion. Donna Smiedt understands that family law cases can be highly stressful and emotional, and she strives to make every case as easy and conflict-free for her clients as possible.

If the legal fatherhood of your child is in dispute for any reason, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our attorneys at our Arlington office today. We serve clients throughout Southlake and Westover Hills. You can schedule a consultation by booking online or by calling


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Andy Carl Valentin

November 2019

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Donna is awesome! Helpful, insightful and very patient when someone babbles on... I should know. I'm a babbler. 
If you're looking for representation, help or advice, look no further.

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Jerry Johnston

June 2019

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Donna has represented my son in a child custody case and my wife and I in a grandparents custody case and she has done a masterful job. I don't know where my grandchildren would be without Donna.  She has given them a chance to have a much better  life and a chance to be loved and grow into well rounded adults. Donna is a very caring person that really looks out for the benefit of children and her clients.

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Why Hire a Lawyer?

Unfortunately, disputes involving a question of fatherhood are often complex and quite difficult to resolve in an amicable way. In some instances, a man believed to be the father of a child may not wish to become responsible for paying child support, and therefore refuse to cooperate in any effort to resolve paternity issues. In others, a mother may not want a man believed to be the father of a child to have a relationship with that child. 

A paternity lawyer can handle the legalities of your case and work toward an outcome that serves the best interests of the child. This allows you to cope with the stress of these disputes without the added challenge of navigating the legal system on your own. More importantly, a lawyer's knowledge of the laws pertaining to these disputes can greatly improve the chances that the child's best interests will be protected. Whether your needs are related to a divorce, an adoption, a custody or visitation dispute, the need to collect financial support, or the need to eliminate the obligation to pay support, a paternity lawyer can help. Donna J. Smiedt is a Board Certified Family Law Attorney by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization whose firm is prepared to help you.

Donna J. Smiedt
Donna J. Smiedt has been a Board Certified Family Law Attorney - Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1991

How Is Paternity Established?

At the Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt in Arlington, TX, serving clients from Southlake, Westover Hills, and throughout greater Dallas-Fort Worth, we help both fathers and mothers establish the legal fatherhood of a child. Paternity can be established in a number of ways:

  • Voluntarily: The mother and father can voluntarily establish legal fatherhood. They can do this through written acknowledgment, or through a court order agreed upon by both parties. In most cases, an Acknowledgment of Paternity form is signed at the hospital after the child is born. 
  • Court Order: When legal fatherhood is disputed by any party, a petition to adjudicate parentage can be filed in the county where the child lives. The man involved in the fatherhood dispute will receive notice to appear in court at a certain date. If the man does not appear in court, the judge can declare him the legal father through a default order. If the man appears and he and the woman agree that he is the child's biological father, the court will declare him the legal father.
  • DNA Testing: If paternity is denied or uncertain, the court is able to order DNA testing. The DNA test requires cheek swabs from the man, the mother, and the child. The court will send the DNA samples to a lab for testing. If the DNA test proves that the man is the biological father of the child, the court will declare him the legal father.

Catherine Clifton

May 2019

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Donna is an amazing, very talented family law attorney that I recommend highly.  She helped me immensely during a very difficult time of my life during my divorce.  She works tirelessly to ensure her clients are well represented, covers all contingencies, (even those you don’t think off), and the bottom line is she WINS the best outcome for your family.

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Toni Fonseca

August 2019

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Donna and Aida and the rest of the staff are amazing including the therapy dogs.. You will not be disappointed!!

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Paternity Law in Texas

Our Arlington family law attorneys serving Southlake, Westover Hills, and greater Dallas-Fort Worth are intimately familiar with the specifics of paternity law in Texas. When considering legal action to resolve paternity issues, here are some quick facts to know about family law in our state:

young couple with baby

Unmarried Parents:
Paternity Is Not Presumed

When a child is born to unmarried parents, the biological father is not presumed to be the legal father and therefore has no legal rights to the child until paternity is established.

couple with baby

Married Parents:
Paternity Is Presumed

When a child is born to married parents, the husband of the mother is presumed to be the child's legal father.

Paternity Can Be Terminated

When a man is declared a child's legal father, but does not believe he is the child's biological father, he can file a petition to have his paternity terminated. 

Forms Can Be Rescinded

If you sign a form establishing legal fatherhood, but change your mind later, Texas law allows you to submit a rescission form within 60 days of the acknowledgment being filed.

Right to an Attorney

In Texas, mothers, fathers, and alleged fathers all have the right to be represented by a lawyer during the court proceedings of a paternity case.

Related Practice Areas


Child Custody

Child Support


Contact a Paternity Lawyer Today

The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt in Arlington, TX, has helped many clients throughout greater Dallas-Fort Worth navigate complex family law cases in which the establishment of legal fatherhood is crucial. Every case comes with its own set of circumstances, and Donna is prepared to meet your needs. Let us help with your case today. For more information about what to expect and how to get started, contact our Arlington practice online or call us at


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Paternity Issues and Divorce

As lawyers exclusively focused on family law who frequently handle divorce cases, the attorneys at The Family Law Firm of Donna J. Smiedt in Arlington know how questions of legal and biological fatherhood can affect divorce proceedings. Paternity cases can often have a powerful influence on the outcome of cases involving child custody, child support, visitation rights, and more.

Questions of fatherhood can also arise after a divorce. For example, a man may be paying child support for a child he doesn't believe is biologically his, or a woman might share custody with a man she does not believe to be the father.

At Donna J. Smiedt's family law firm, our attorneys assist clients throughout greater Dallas-Fort Worth in all types of paternity cases, including:

  • Mothers proving legal fatherhood to receive child support
  • Fathers proving legal fatherhood to receive visitation rights
  • Men disproving legal fatherhood to avoid unjust child support
  • Divorcing couples determining legal fatherhood as it pertains to a divorce settlement

Jimmy Thursby

May 2019

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Donna has been one of the best lawyers in the metroplex for a long time she have helped my family out so much and I’ll recommend her and her law office to anyone that needs help they will go over and beyond to get you right.

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Jodi B

May 2019

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Donna was extremely helpful when we needed direction protecting our children in a blended family dynamic with concerns of abuse and addiction.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does legal representation for a paternity case cost?

The cost of the cases our attorneys take on vary based on several factors. Donna and her team of lawyers care about every client who enters our Arlington office, and they understand that cost is a concern. For more information on the cost of professional representation, contact us online or give us a call at 817-572-9900.

Is establishing legal fatherhood alone enough for me to be awarded child custody?

Not necessarily. Custody disputes involve many factors, not just proof of biological fatherhood. Other factors taken into account by the courts include the ability to support a child, history of irresponsible behavior, mental health, and more. Fortunately, our attorneys serving greater Dallas-Fort Worth handle issues of child custody as well, and will fight for an outcome that serves your child's best interests.

Do I really need an attorney?

You are always free to represent yourself in any family law case. However, a dedicated family law attorney can use legal expertise to ensure that your best interests and those of your child are being protected.

the team at The Family Law Firm of Donna J Smiedt

The Family Law Firm of Donna J Smiedt

The Family Law Firm of Donna J Smiedt is the premier destination for clients who need representation during a divorce, adoption, or other family law matters. Donna J. Smiedt has been in practice since 1986 and is a Board Certified Family Law Attorney – Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Her other professional affiliations include:

  • Texas Bar College
  • Arlington Bar Association
  • Tarrant County Bar Association
  • Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists

To schedule a consultation at our Arlington or Southlake, TX, law firm, contact us online or call (817) 572-9900.

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